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Mini Maroons: Playing the greatest game of all

Mini Maroons is the weekly round-up of the amazing things children are doing across community rugby league in the great state of Queensland.

This week we are celebrating a mother-daughter/coach-player combo on the Sunshine Coast, four Good Samaritans from Rochedale, and a jack of all trades from Townsville.

QRL Central

Six-year-old Soraya O’Brien has the best role models to look up to in life.

The youngster made her rugby league debut for the Caloundra Sharks Under 7 team over the first weekend of April, taking the plunge after some initial hesitancy.

With two older brothers – Xavier, 14, and Slater, 10 – already playing the game, Soraya had considered donning a jersey last year but was a bit unsure.

Soraya makes her rugby league debut with her mum and coach, Amy O'Brien, watching on.
Soraya makes her rugby league debut with her mum and coach, Amy O'Brien, watching on.

However, after she saw the Sharks’ under 13s girls' team in action, she wanted in.

Then when her mum, Amy O’Brien, promised to be her coach if the position was available, there was no stopping Soraya.

“She had been watching the under 13s girls play last year at the Sharkies,” O’Brien said of her daughter.

“Having that older girl group around, she really took a liking to a lot of the girls on the team. I think it made a contribution to her decision to play.

“I also said if they need a coach I’ll put my hand up and that made her decision easier as well. She’s a pretty confident girl, that’s the way she was born, but having me there gives her a bit of extra support.”

O’Brien also made her debut as coach on the day and is trying her hand as the Caloundra registrar for the first time.

Despite all the firsts in the O’Brien family, she was happy to report the mother-daughter/coach-player debut went well, even if there were a few tired bodies by full-time.

“They were pretty buggered by the end of it,” O’Brien said of her young team.

“It was a big first game. But they all really enjoyed it. It was a good day.”

QRL South East

The Rochedale Tigers RLFC teach their players to be decent people first and rugby league players second.

So when they received a message after their most recent round of grading matches, praising four of their under 14 players for exceptional sportsmanship, it was a moment to feel proud of.

Jacob Wadsworth, Marcus Eromanga, Adam Payne and Aiden Hamilton came to the aid of an opposition player from the Moreton Bay Raiders, stopping play after he copped a knock to the head.

The Rochedale Tigers under 14s team. Photo: Rochedale Tigers RLFC Facebook
The Rochedale Tigers under 14s team. Photo: Rochedale Tigers RLFC Facebook

The moment caused a Moreton Bay parent to reach out to the club afterwards, applauding the boys, and Rochedale secretary Christine Bennett said it was not only well-deserved, but also showed the character of the Tigers’ players.

“Our boys stopped to make sure he was alright,” Bennett said.

“The referee missed what happened so they stayed with (the opposition player) and called for the game to stop. Then they went to make sure he was okay after the game.

“The 14s are a good bunch of young men. They go out there to play football but for that age to think of someone else, it’s really good to see.

“Good sportsmanship is what we try to instil in the club and within our players. We tell the boys and girls that it’s not just about you going out there and playing a game of footy. It’s about you going out there to enjoy a game and to help anyone you possibly can.”

Bennett said the recognition was also nice as the Rochedale under 14 side had already dealt with early setbacks ahead of their season, including injuries to some of their players.

But after notching up a 28-10 win over Moreton Bay at Redcliffe, they are very keen for the season to finally get underway.

“They’re a very resilient bunch of young men,” she said.

QRL North

How do you celebrate after finishing seven games of rugby league at one of the country’s biggest carnivals?

Well, for Jackson Mulder, you top it off with three games of soccer and six touch footy matches.

While it sounds exhausting, this is exactly what the Townsville young gun did between April 1 and 4, after carnivals for his three favourite sports clashed into one mammoth weekend.

Jackson Mulder at the Laurie Spina Shield.
Jackson Mulder at the Laurie Spina Shield.

A jack of all trades, Jackson first turned out for the Centrals ASA Tigers Under 11 team at the hugely popular Laurie Spina Shield in Townsville on Friday and Saturday.

Missing just one game with his Tigers team on the Saturday, Jackson then sped off to play three games of soccer with his North Queensland side. And as the final hooter sounded on his third match, he was back in the car to play one game of touch footy.

He played another four games of touch on the Sunday, and one on the Monday, and his father Jarid Mulder said it was quite an incredible feat.

Soccer and touch football have been in Jackson’s life since he was young, and while he's had his eye on rugby league for the past three years, conflicting timetables have meant he wasn't able to play the game until now.

After his soccer training was moved to a different night this year, he was finally able to add rugby league to his busy schedule and - despite constant reminders from his parents that he can drop a sport anytime he wants - he just keeps on going and going and going.

“There was a lot of planning and driving around,” Mulder said of his son’s action-packed weekend.

“It’s his first year playing league for club and he’s doing pretty well. At Laurie Spina, the opposing team would pick a man of the match after each game and he ended up with three man of the match awards, all in different positions.

“He takes to a lot of things pretty naturally.

“The weekend was a bit of a one-off in terms of how much he had on. He’s walking around like an old man at the moment and the legs are a bit stiff.

“Usually he fights us on going to bed because he’s reading books or stealing someone’s phone to watch footy highlights. But he was pretty quick to get into bed come Monday night.”

Jackson – the eldest of five kids - is an avid Brisbane Broncos fan who hopes to one day play for the Townsville Blackhawks.

His dad said if he’s not playing sport, he’s constantly watching it, especially his rugby league.

“He loves watching it more than anyone I know,” Mulder said.

“It annoys his younger sisters because he’ll watch NRL and then the women’s league and then the Hostplus Cup. He just loves it.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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